Sunday, October 2, 2011

Great Googly Moogly!

Finally, straight talk from a powerful corporate titan!

A week after testifying before the Senate Judiciary antitrust committee and fresh from a dentist visit for a toothache, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt did some mighty fancy straight shootin' with Wapo's Lillian Cunningham, unloading round after round of discontent about the way Washington works. (Full interview and a better photo here:

While I might have recommended a little more restraint, or perhaps more diplomatically worded petards (full disclosure, he didn't ask), the interview banged a "10" on the Candor Scale and a "google" on the Entertainment Scale. Unfortunately, the Russians gave it a "1" on the Effectiveness Scale, dashing any hopes of a medal. But it's a safe bet that the highlight reel will be enjoyed time and again by the "older ladies and gentlemen" on the Hill.

Here are some gems from Mr. Schmidt's performance:

"So we get hauled in front of the Congress for developing a product that’s free, that serves a billion people. Okay? I mean, I don’t know how to say it any clearer. … [I]t’s not like we raised prices. We could lower prices from free to…lower than free?"

"And for every one of these Internet-savvy senators, there’s another senator who doesn’t get it at all. And it’s not a partisan issue. It’s true in both parties."

"[T]here are two kinds of lobbying. … There’s the kind of lobbying where you pay an ex-senator to get the current senator to write a sentence into a bill, and there’s no confusion as to what this is about. … In Washington, for example, you can pay an ex-person $50,000 to arrange a meeting to get that process, to get those five sentences written in this bill."

"We wanted to lobby based on ideas. … So what we do from a leadership perspective, at least in terms of political leadership, is we talk about ideas. And inevitably what happens is everyone says ‘yes,’ yet inevitably on the Hill you have an older gentleman or lady. The staffers are young—the staffers get it. So that’s what we depend on."

"These industries are full of very smart people … who don’t live in America. They come to America, we educate them at the best universities … and then we kick them out. If they stayed in the country … they would create jobs, pay taxes, have high incomes, pay more taxes than the average American, and generally increase the GDP of the country. … [H-1B visas] is the stupidest policy the government has with respect to high tech."

"In the current cast of characters, the Republicans are on our side, our local Democrats support us because our arguments are obvious, and the other Democrats don’t—because they don’t get it."

"[T]here was something called the Clipper chip, which was the attempt by the government to enforce encryption on a particular communications aspect. … The chief proponent of the Clipper chip was Al Gore. … All of us spent a lot of time and we eventually defeated it, but I think for many people that was sort of a wake-up call that the government could actually pass a law that was stupid, that would actually do something wrong and wouldn’t work."

Lesson: When you're worth $7 billion, you can pretty much say anything you want. For those of us below the "F-you money" tax bracket, how your audience reacts to your words is always more important than how you feel getting them off your chest. And don't do interviews with a toothache.

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